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King Hywel II of Wales (Welsh History Post Glyndwr)

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Hywel II
4th King of Wales

3. Hywel II.jpg
King of Wales
King of Wales
Reign 29th July 1512-1st December 1545
Coronation 1st March 1513 in St Davids Cathedral
Predecessor Hywel I
Successor Rhodri
Regent Prince Rhys of Powys
Prince of Gwynedd
Reign 29th July 1512-1st December 1545
Predecessor Hywel I of Gwynedd
Successor Rhodri of Gwynedd
Spouse Catherine de Bouchy
Issue Prince Gruffudd of Wales

Princess Gwenllian of Wales

Prince Dafydd, Edling Cymru

Full name
Hywel ap Hywel ap Owain
Posthumous name
Hywel i Annheilwng (The Unworthy)
House House of Glyndwr
Father Hywel ap Owain ap Maredudd
Mother Eleanor Powell
Born 4th February 1500
Sycharth Manor
Died 1st December 1545 (Aged: 45)
Sycharth Manor
Burial Royal Crypt, St Davids Cathedral
Religion Roman Catholic
Hywel II became king at an early age. Just 12 years old when his authoritarian father was killed by a freak accident at the Naval yards in Milford Haven. The new king and his brother had been brought up largely by their mother the Queen at the court in Caernarfon, whilst their father travelled the kingdom. The legend of their father far eclipsed the man they barely knew.



Early Life

Hywel was born on the 4th Feb 1500 in Sycharth Manor on the eastern fringes of Gwynedd. Both Hywel and his brother Rhodri were brought up in a court dominated by the Pembroke family. Queen Elenor was fiercely protective over her families rights and privileges and her brother was the only Dug (Duke) in the entire realm, and both he and her father were influential figures in the Prince's early years. The King was largely absent, prefering to hold his own court in Harlech, whilst the Queen resided in Caernarfon. That way his womanising could not impact too greatly on her or the Royal Children. The care and education of both young Princes was committed to a monk called Tomos Fychan, and he was the dominant educational and religious figure until Hywel's early rise to the throne. The young Prince was well read in Latin and was a regular correspondant with his close neighbour, the Prince Arthur of England. The influence of Tomos Fychan though would have long reaching implications with the young Prince turning into a young King more interested in eclesiastical matters than political ones.

King - The Minority Years

With the death of his father, Hywel found himself thrust into the centre of the Welsh political landscape, a life he was ill suited to. Well educated by theological standards, he was poorly prepared to be king. Young, shy and insecure the first acts of his reign established the Regency Council which was to rule in his name for four years (1512-1516).

The first Llywydd (President) of the Council was the Queen, Elenor with her brother the Duke of Dyfed (Gwilym). Their early dominance though was undone by the Treaty of Woodstock (signed Oct 29th 1513). The Treaty was an act of submission to Henry VIII in light of the slaughter of the Welsh allies, Scotland and the death of their energetic king, James IV. The Treaty was viewed with derision by many in Welsh noble circles, tying Wales, again to the English cause. This treaty was especially hard as Henry was viewed very much as a junior monarch with his Tudor heritage. Following that, the Earl of Brecheiniog, Cadell Fychan, took prominance along with the rising Court starlet, Prince Rhys of Powys. Rhys was everything Hywel was not, and the young nobles of the realm started to flock to his banner. In 1514, Cadell had arranged the marriage of the youn King to a French noblewoman, the Lady Catherine De Bouchy. By 1515, Powys had claimed the Chancellorship, and whilst Earl Cadell Fychan clung onto the title of Llywydd, the looming majority of Hywel would soon strip that title of power and significance.

King in Name Only

The year 1516 saw Hywel become a man at the age of 16. His mother was offically banished from the court by Powys. The Queen Dowager taking up residence at the Archbishops Palace in St Asaph's. The Prince then moved his own men into key positions within the Caernarfon court and by 1517 Rhys had elevated his brother, Owain, to the Royal Duchy of Gwent, cutting the Queen Dowager's brother, Gwilym down to size immeadiatly. Powys did not have things entirely his own way. Earl Cadell succeeded in gaining the position of Duke for the Earl of March as a powerful counterbalance to Powys' machinations. However, this was only a minor setback in the early career of Prince Rhys.

Hywel, encouraged by Rhys left the daily running of the kingdom to Prince Rhys, leaving Hywel free to concentrate on things he held dear. Namely the Catholic Church and the future of his imortal soul. In 1519, as an ornament to his mother, Queens College, St Davids was inaugurated and in 1520 a huge grant was made to St Davids for renovation work. 1520 also saw the first of 4 Monastic Houses funded by Hywel opening. These years were also fruitfull ones in terms of securing the future of his families throne. 1518 has seen the birth of his first son, Gruffud, who died just 2 days old, 1520 saw the birth of his daughter Gwenllian and 1522 the birth of his second son, Dafydd. The Royal Court toured Wales in these years, though home was always Caernarfon Castle. These idyllic years came crashing to a close in 1528 with the death of both son and heir Dafydd and his beloved wife, the Queen Catherine.

With the death of both people the King began to withdraw from even the limited court involvement, leaning more heavily than ever on the redoutable Prince Rhys, who garnered more and more powers to himself. The increasing religious and political turmoil in the neighbouring England also began to have an effect on Welsh politics, with Rhys intriguing to gain for Wales from Englands misfortunes. In 1530, Powys warns the English against proceeding with the divorce of Henry and Catherine of Aragon, and he follows this up with the 1531 Treaty of San Sebastian, which for the first time, allied Wales with the Spanish Kingdom. Under Powy's hand, relations with England increasingly turn worse.

It is during this period that the first Protestants turn up in Wales, though they are instantly set upon by Powys and the Government. During all this, Hywel is to be found in the monastery's of Wales, writing religious texts, praying and laying foundations for houses in both his and his wife's name, though in 1534 Powys drags him back into the centre of political life with the declaration of war on England.

The 1st Anglo-Welsh War

Hywel was largely an unwilling partner in Powys' military ambitions, but he was an important partner. Without the kings consent the nobles would have been free to ignore Powys and begin his downfall. Already he had earned the wrath of the kings brother, Prince Rhodri as well as the enmity of the Duke of March, but the kings support won round the fence sitters. For three years the "war" consisted of diplomatic barbs fired within the confines of the two Royal Courts, until in 1537 war finally erupted with Powys leading the Welsh armies into Northern Somerset. The Duke of March, curiously dying in the first action of the war serving to strengthen Powys' grip on the army, and therefore the king, who watched the campaign proceed from Powysian stronghold of Caerleon.

The war doesn't really proceed all that well from either side ending in a stalemate in 1539 with Wales failing to possess the resources to prosecute the war and England not able to eject the Welsh totally from their gains. The 1540 Treaty of Somerset sees the Welsh retain Dyfnaint Glan Hafren (North Coast) but Wales loses the city of Bath to England.

End of a Reign

The final five years of Hywel's reign sees a growing political battle brew within the Welsh Court. Prince Rhodri, now the Crown Prince, begins to gain supporters to ensure his succession, whilst the Prince Rhys also begins maneouvers to gain the crown for himself. The king is engaged mainly in a monastic life near his holdings at Sycharth whilst his brother holds court in Caernarfon pitted against the Government machinery of the Chancellor. In 1545 the King falls ill and sensing his chance, Powys in his role as Chancellor acts to seize power for himself with an eye to claiming the throne. The Crown Prince however has been very active in the last five years, and has built up a lot of support amongst the nobility, whilst Powys' stock fell following the disastrous war with England and he never really recovered the initiative after that.

On the 1st Dec 1545 the ill King died in his sleep in Sycharth Manor and as news of the death reached Caernarfon, the Crown Prince acted faster and more decisively, securing the throne for himself.


Preceded by:
Hywel I
King of Wales
1512-1545
Succeeded by:
Rhodri

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